President Bush finally sent the Colombian free-trade deal to Congress today … just in time for it to qualify for fast track status. Congress now has 90 days to vote up or down on the deal. Trade with Colombia faces stiff opposition in the Democrat controlled Congress. Just a decade ago the a Democratic president supported free trade. Now meeting with America’s allies in support of free trade is a firing offense for aides of Democratic presidential campaigns:

TURMOIL erupted in Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Sunday April 6th after Mark Penn was sacked as her chief strategist. His offence was meeting Colombian officials to discuss the passage of a free-trade agreement that Mrs Clinton opposes. He did so in his other role, as a lobbyist with Burson-Marsteller, a global public-relations firm: Colombia wants to move along a stalled free-trade agreement with the United States; talks concluded in February 2006 but enabling legislation has been blocked in Congress. Free trade is a sensitive issue for the Democrats and Mrs Clinton was anyway unhappy with Mr Penn’s recent performance.

Mrs Clinton has called out for a “time out” on trade deals and for a reassessment of their impact on American workers. This appeals to blue-collar workers especially in places that are suffering manufacturing-job losses such as Pennsylvania, which holds its primary in two weeks’ time, and Ohio, which Mrs Clinton won in early March. One reason why Barack Obama’s campaign struggled in the Buckeye State was the revelation that an economic adviser had privately assured Canadian officials that his boss was only posturing when he said nasty things about the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA).